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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - Assassination attempt on Victoria and Albert, 30th May 1842, John Francis

Updated: Mar 2

On this day, 30th May 1842, John Francis attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria for a second time.

© 2024 The Trustees of the British Museum

The day before, 29th May, Prince Albert noticed the “little, swarthy, I’ll-looking rascal” standing along the mall as him and Victoria rode in an open carriage after their Sunday service at St James’s Palace. The Prince watched as the man held up a pistol and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, the gun failed to go off before he hid it in his coat and vanished into Green Park.

Albert informed the royal security of what had happened and they re commended the couple stay in the palace until the man was caught. After years of hiding away at Kensington Palace, Victoria was determined to show she wasn’t scared and thought another ride might encourage the man to reappear.

The next evening, 30th May, they headed back out in an open barouche. In a letter to his father, Albert wrote that their minds “were not easy” as the couple “looked behind every tree, and I [Albert] cast my eyes round in search for the rascal’s face”.

Officers lined the streets throughout the rout and scoured the crowds for a man of a similar description. As they did, a shot was fired just five paces behind the carriage. Thankfully, he missed his targets and no one was hurt. Officers were quick to tackle John Francis, who was later sentenced to be hanged and quartered. Feeling this was too harsh, Queen Victoria insisted he be transported abroad.

© 2024 The Trustees of the British Museum

Queen Victoria’s journal- 30th May:

"Albert went to give the decision, as Ld Warden, to the Appeal he heard, the other day. — I sat to Landseer, & at ½ p. 4, when he had returned, we drove out, the 2 Equerries riding quite close up to the carriage on either side, — the reason for which will appear. We drove up to Hampstead Heath, from whence the view was beautiful, & back the same way. When we drove down Constitution Hill, we heard the report of a pistol, — but very slight, & saw the man seized, which was very satisfactory & we felt greatly relieved. We felt so full of gratitude to that Almighty Providence, Who has again so wonderfully & mercifully preserved us! As soon as I came home I ran & told Lehzen about what had occurred, & she was naturally thunderstruck! Then came dear Mama & Uncle Mensdorff, who were horrified, as also our good Cousins, who ran up from downstairs, & I shall never forget good Arthur’s look of consternation, — he went as pale as a sheet. We all remained in Albert’s Waiting Room which looks into the Court, I only going away for a moment to see Uncle Cambridge, who came to require. Uncle Mensdorff was so kind, & they all said it was very brave of me to have gone out, knowing, as we did, for certain, since the morning that this man was about. I felt quick agitated & excited. Before dinner, we heard that the man was about 20 years old, of the name of Francis, the son of a machine maker at Covent Garden Theatre, & himself, a cabinet maker. — George Cambridge, Mama, & her Lady, The Dss of Buccleuch, Ld & Ly Exeter, Ld & Ly Robert Grosvenor, & Ly Peel dined. Sat between George, & good Uncle Mensdorff. Everyone was most kind & horrified at this dreadful attempt. After dinner the Ministers came, & they told us that the man had been remanded till the next day. A boy, whose name is Pearson, saw the man take aim & is an excellent witness, but stammers dreadfully. The wretch, Sir Robert Peel, & all the Ministers declare, is as sane as anyone can be, but very cunning, trying to say that he might have fired in play. He is said to be good-looking, with not at all a bad countenance. — When I think of what might have happened, I shudder!"

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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